GPs were paid over €9.5m in fees for providing terminations over three years

HSE fees relate to almost 24,000 initial consultations and about 19,500 terminations in the community

GPs were paid fees totalling more than €9.5 million for providing abortions in the first three years of the State’s termination of pregnancy service, new figures show.

The fees relate to almost 24,000 initial consultations with women about termination and about 19,500 terminations completed in the community between 2019 and last year.

The total cost of claims made by doctors providing terminations in the community has remained relatively constant since the service was introduced in 2019 – €3 million in 2019 and €3.26 million in 2020 and 2021, according to HSE figures.

Under the termination of pregnancy scheme, GPs are paid a €150 fee for a first consultation with a woman seeking a termination. Almost €3.6 million was paid under this heading over the three years, equivalent to almost 24,000 consultations.

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The HSE pays a €300 combined termination fee for administering medicines and providing aftercare. Over the three years, the total cost of these claims came to €5.87 million, according to the data provided by the HSE to Independent TD Seán Canney, the equivalent of 19,570 terminations

A separate €100 fee is payable to GPs who provide aftercare for patients who have received terminations in hospital and have been discharged to the community. Over three years, €53,700 has been claimed, indicative of more than 500 women requiring aftercare in the community following a hospital termination.

Under the system introduced in 2019, abortion is available generally up to 12 weeks gestation and only in limited circumstances after that. Medical abortions up to nine weeks of pregnancy take place in the community, and between nine and 12 weeks in a hospital. Surgical abortions take place in a hospital.

The hospital system was allocated €7 million in recurring funding in 2019 to support the roll-out of termination services, the HSE also told Mr Canney.

This was used to hire additional personnel, including obstetricians, midwives and nurses, sonographers, theatre staff, bereavement specialists, administrators, medical social workers and pharmacists.

“These resources, whilst funded and established utilising funding provided to support termination of pregnancy services, have developed and been embedded within existing gynaecology and maternity services such that termination of pregnancy service is just one of the areas of responsibilities that they hold on the ground,” the HSE said.

The HSE also said it provides about €880,000 to the Irish Family Planning Association and the Well Woman Clinic for costs linked to the provision of terminations and counselling.

Earlier this year, the Government appointed barrister Marie O’Shea to conduct a review of the termination scheme. Her report is due shortly. Eleven out of 19 maternity units and about 10 per cent of the State’s GPs provide termination services.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times